I SAW The Hypochondriac, a play by Molière adapted by Richard Bean, at Pitlochry Theatre in 1991. The story is of a perfectly healthy man who forever finds aliments to keep him in sickness.

Some 2500 years ago, Hippocrates, the fellow who started the Hippocratic oath which doctors swear today, worked out that there are many people who think that they are ill when there is no sickness really. I suspect there would have been some discussion around that issue when Aneurin Bevan’s team were constructing the National Health Service.

Like shops, there has to be a margin factored in for those who would steal. I am sure the NHS factors that in its sums when setting budgets.

I thought I was a hypochondriac recently. On two occasions, district nurses came to my house on Sunday afternoon. I was also on the phone to the 111 service but it was not easy to see what was going on with my leg, it was black and blue with bruising after a major operation and it was not until the bruises subsided that a doctor determined I had a bad infection. It took two courses of antibiotics to shift it.

It is quite astonishing the advances since 1948 when the NHS started. When I was wee, the measles nearly saw me aff, today the “medicalicians” can put your whole body in a scanner and get 3D pictures of your insides.

I watched Doctor Findlay’s Casebook on the television set in 1962 –Tannochbrae and where I stayed back then were similar. Today, oh goodness, they can replace bits, heart, kidney, hand, face. Personally, I feel brand new and send my grateful thanks to all those who mended me and cared for me and gave me this new lease of life.

For me, the pandemic began on March 11, 2020 and in the small community where I stay there were many visits from ambulances. When it was allowed, I took several neighbours to many GP appointments. Amazingly, since then, I have had four jags to help my body fight off the Covid-19 virus – I was provided with magic kits to determine if I had Covid and I have been topped up on the flu vaccine too.

During the past year, I have had many appointments regarding my problems and when it was realised that if I was not repaired immediately there would be no chance of repair at all, they repaired me, otherwise I would now be in a wheelchair.

I have heard complaints that the Scottish NHS is not up to much. There is one person here who smokes continually and has had many visits from the ambulance services – one morning recently there were two parked outside the person’s house for over an hour.

The NHS is a victim of its own success – the better it gets, the more it can do and it therefore generates more – and more different – queues. Of course, if you were a government and you spent a lot of money on a new hospital full of the most up-to-date equipment, it would not be much good if there were no customers! Is this a chicken and egg story or is it an egg and chicken?

It is not easy to train a doctor or nurse or all the other skills that are required to run a health service, and here we are in a Brexit-induced monetary coma short on people who have the skills and knowledge to do all this vital work. After all, we all want to be fit and healthy. We all want our treatment to have started the day before yesterday and we all want to be well again after we pop one pill.

For all they can do, there are many cures still unavailable and we all feel sorry for our fellows who do not find what they need to restore them to health.

My bother with the opposition parties in Holyrood and the endless drum at the beginning of STV and BBC Scottish news bulletins is them trying to make it seem that the Scottish NHS is crumbling.

Sadly, one can see that the accident and emergency services and the ambulance services, in some parts of Scotland, are trying under the greatest pressure to do their best in circumstances which are far from ideal, but the extraordinary people who work in the services are just that.

A couple of days ago, STV News reported a pilot scheme to reduce bed blocking – this was again a major reason for the troubles in A&E.

One person who lives near me told me I had been lucky to get surgery. I agreed, but if they had not fixed me when they did, I would have been beyond fixing. I am very grateful that luck came my way. Actually, though, I think it is not so much luck as a huge multitude of very clever people working together, the best they can under pressure, recognising where their skills were most needed at any moment, to do the best for as many people as they can.

It is horrible when people do not get the treatment which they require. As usual, when a part of a huge machine does not work as well as needed, people shout and holler that the whole is a basket case and that it is all the cabinet secretary’s fault.

I am very grateful for my new lease of life. I feel deeply for those who have problems still to be solved and sad for any of my fellow Scots who have not made it. When we are independent, things can be better and they will be.

Cher Bonfis

via email

With Gavin Williamson (and presumably his tarantula?) forced to resign only two weeks after being appointed, I thought it was time to do a bit of homework on some of the short-term, effectively “temp” type appointments within the UK Tory government in recent years:

Prime Minister: Liz Truss, seven weeks, September-October 2022.

Chancellor: Kwasi Kwarteng, five-and-a-half weeks, September-October 2022; Nadhim Zahawi, nine weeks, July-September 2022; Sajid Javid, fewer than seven months, July 19-February 2020.

Foreign Secretary: Liz Truss, one year, September 2021-September 2022; Jeremy Hunt, one year, July 2018-July 2019.

Home Secretary: Suella Braverman, six weeks, September-October 2022. Six days after resigning she was re-appointed again as Home Secretary! During that momentous six days, Grant Shapps was in post; Sajid Javid, 15 months, April 2018-July 2019.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: Chloe Smith, seven weeks, September-October 2022; Amber Rudd, fewer than 10 months, November 2018-September 2019; Esther McVey, 10 months, January-November 2018; David Gauke, seven months, June 2017-Jan 2018; Damian Green, 11 months, July 2016-June 2017; Stephen Crabb, fewer than four months, March-July 2016.

Secretary of State for Education: Kit Malthouse, seven weeks, September-October 2022; James Cleverley, two months, July-September 2022; Michelle Donelan, two days! July 2022; Nadhim Zahawi, fewer than 10 months, September 21-July 2022.

Once you actually sit back and take in these stats, it becomes even more unbelievable by the minute. I was particularly struck by the seriously high turnover at Work and Pensions. This is a crucial department, responsible for the welfare of those with the least in society, the sick, the disabled and the elderly and yet six of the secretary of states from March 2016 lasted less than a year.

Clearly, appointing heads of department is more about handing oot favours to pals, keeping various factions of the Tory party on side and dealing with the consequences of having to sack those that just cannae behave themselves (once they are eventually found oot!).

Surely this should be about having the most talented leaders in place, giving them time to ensure stability, to ensure departments are run smoothly for the benefit of the British people? In extreme right-wing Tory Britain? Aye right!

One more stat: First Minister of Scotland – Nicola Sturgeon, eight years, November 2014-present. No more comment required. That speaks for itself!

Ivor Telfer

Dalgety Bay, Fife

The opposition in Scotland are experts at shooting themselves in the foot and First Minister’s Questions on Thursday was no exception.

Conservative leader Douglas Ross MSP called for the Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to be fired on the grounds of NHS waiting times in Scotland.

However, we need to recognise Scotland has the best performing NHS in the UK and pays the best rate of pay for NHS employees in the UK. So, on this basis and facts, will Mr Ross be consistent with his call on waiting times, and call for every health secretary in the UK to be fired?

Catriona C Clark


We are now suffering under our third Tory Prime Minister in almost as many months. It will be interesting to see how long Sunak lasts in post before his chaotic political party decides that, after all, he’s not right for the job either and gets rid of him.

There are two consistencies in the revolving door of Tory PMs.

The first is that they all come into post adamantly asserting that the policies of their predecessors were all wrong, but that they know what needs to be fixed in order to get the country on its feet again.

This is said without any acknowledgement that they, as members of the previous Cabinet, participated in the decision-making and are collectively responsible for the policies they now say are wrong.

The second consistency is that the policies they say are needed to fix broken Britain all involve austerity in some shape or form.

Austerity, they argue, is the only means available to fix this broken country. But of course that means austerity for the little people. Not for the high and mighty 1% who manage to avoid paying tax by having enough wealth that they can use fancy accountants and lawyers to help them squirrel their money away in offshore tax havens so that they, who have most, pay the least in tax.

And the crowning irony of all is the fact that this Tory party have been in power for 12 years.

To hear Tory politicians speak, you would think that it was a completely different political party which has presided over the mess we’re in now. What hypocrisy!

David Howdle

Address supplied

In response to Neil Barbour’s letter in the Sunday National, I am not sure if he is a Frank Zappa fan. Frank had a campaign gathering support for raising taxes on church income.

He may like to know that there are T-shirts available for said campaign.

The slogan is “Tax the f**k out of churches!”

How would Neil propose to tax the Roman Catholic church in Scotland?

Bill Graham

East Kilbride